Christian Apologetics: A Personal Reflection

Apologetics Helped Me

The study and practice of Christian Apologetics hold a place near and dear to my heart. Apologetics was one of the primary means by which God strengthened my faith and called me into ministry. Like many others, I remember having seemingly countless conversations in college about my Christian faith. I recall discussing many of those tough issues that college students love to spend time talking about.

I also remember being ill-prepared to give an answer for the reason for my hope (1 Peter 3:15). I just “had faith,” whatever that meant. I’m sure I couldn’t have told you even that much. The things we talked about in college were not quite on the level of asking if God could create a stone too heavy for him to lift (Dr. Ronald Nash would later tell me the answer is “no.”). But we did deal with very practical questions about Christianity, especially as it relates to other belief systems. And as I mentioned, I was an unprepared Christian.

A Great Miracle in My Life

God, however, used that to perform one of the great miracles in my life. He used those discussions to get me reading books… those strange and alien things I had worked hard through college avoiding having to read. Yet the questions I remember wrestling with my senior year of college, the ones I had no answers for, really begin to bother me. God used that restlessness to lead me (even compel me) to start reading (of my own accord) for the first time in my life. I first began reading a book on world religions and cults by Josh McDowell. I next remember buying and reading a book on this strange new “thing” called Christian apologetics by a writer I had never heard of called, Norman Geisler.

Thus began my journey and near obsession of reading apologetics, worldview, philosophy, ethics, etc. I started seeing Christianity as a world and life view and not a piecemeal and compartmentalized religion. I started understanding Christianity as actually true and not merely a choice on the buffet table of religious and philosophical selections.

More Work Required on My Part

One of the things I learned in the years that followed was that much of the time, all I really needed to “defend the faith” was simply a better knowledge of what I believed. This moved me to start digging into the study of God’s Word, as well as Christian doctrine and theology. The rest, as they say, is history. God used the study of Christian apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith) in my life to drive me to a deeper understanding of the essential truths of the Christian faith, as well as how to I might learn to communicate those truths more effectively.

I’ve discovered over the last three decades as a pastor that there are very few new questions being asked. Many are simply the same questions that have been asked for millennia but being asked in new and different ways. And each time such a question is asked, it must be taken seriously and answered lovingly, graciously, and winsomely, for it may be the first time the questioner has asked it. There’s no room for condescension in these moments of engagement.

My mentor, Ken Boa, told me while I was in seminary that it’s okay to be asked a tough question by someone and not have the answer with which to reply to them… the first time. However, he reiterated that I should never be asked the same question twice or three times without having an answer. In other words, being “stumped” once is virtually a rite of passage. Being stumped by the same question twice is a no-no. That means, I must do the hard work, study, and be prepared for the next time I hear the question. I have tried to put that principle into practice.

A Foot in the Door

What I’ve tried to do over the years is to use those tough questions as opportunities to get back together with the person who asked me the question, attempt to answer their question, get to know them better, and use the opportunity to share my faith with them if they are not a Christian, or to disciple them if they are. I have learned the hard way that the worst thing one can do when asked a tough question is attempt to bluff an answer.  First of all, it doesn’t work and secondly, folks respect your honesty.

Having said all of that, I need to be clear about something: There are indeed some very hard questions about the Christian faith. There are deep and tough questions that relate to evil, other religions, science, the Bible, just to name a few. By God’s grace I’ve also learned there are some very bright and gifted Christian thinkers who have thought through and prayed long and hard about those questions and what God’s Word has to say about them. These very capable apologists have written extensively on most, if not all of those issues, and many have written helpful books and maintain useful websites.

My Experience

After 30+ years as a pastor serving the local church, I’m still hearing great questions and having wonderful conversations with people who are honest seekers, and who are looking to get to know God and go deeper with him.

I hope to share more in the weeks to come about Christian apologetics. It’s a vast academic discipline and the practice of it by Christians at home, in the workplace, classroom, community, etc., is not only commanded, but much needed in today’s world. Hopefully much of what I share will serve as a help to you as you prepare to give an answer for the reason for the hope you have in Christ.


Francis Schaeffer

As many others before me, I was influenced early in my ministry by the books, audio messages, and video recordings of Francis Schaeffer. I never gave in to trying to grow his goatee or dress like him, but from time to time I probably tried to speak like him, as I was finding my own voice. That happens to preachers sometimes… they try to sound like their favorite preacher instead of being who they are – along with their particular gifts and graces.

I used to deeply study philosophy, worldview-thinking, ethics, theology, culture, and apologetics through seminary and well into the first half of my ministry. Francis Schaeffer helped me navigate much of that journey. He helped show me how those subjects were all connected and how understanding such things was essential for practical day-to-day life and ministry. More than that, his biblical, theological, and philosophical convictions compelled him to bear faithful Christian witness to the world in which he lived. In fact, he thought of himself, primarily, as an evangelist.

Reading Schaeffer’s works and learning more about him, his family, and his ministry also led me to discover others who have since impacted my thinking and ministry, such as Jerram BarrsOs Guinness, and Dick Keyes.

Though I have never stopped studying those philosophical and theological disciplines previously mentioned, I have had something of a renewal of interest and focus on them over this last handful of years. Therefore, I thought I might share this post on Schaeffer that I put together shortly after the centennial celebration of Schaeffer’s birth. During that time, I read some great tributes to his life and ministry and thought that I would pass those along, as well as a few helpful websites and ministries that are carrying on Schaeffer’s work today.

I hope something you come across here will bless you.

A few articles about Schaeffer…

Remembering Francis Schaeffer by T.M. Moore (good list of links at the end of the article). In many ways Charles Colson and his various ministries (The Colson CenterBreakPoint, etc., are carrying on in the same spirit as Schaeffer.

100th Anniversary of Francis Schaeffer’s Birth by Nathan Bingham at Ligonier Ministries

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life (a review by Hunter Baker) at Gospel Coalition

Francis Schaeffer at 100 at Credo Magazine

Covenant Theological Seminary’s magazine issue on Schaeffer

The Need to Read Francis Schaeffer by Todd Kappelman at Probe Ministries

Francis Schaeffer and a World in Desperate Need by Lane Dennis at Crossway

Francis Schaeffer at Wheaton

Review: Duriez on Schaeffer by Donald Williams

How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100 by Charles Colson

Here are some great websites/ministries serving in the “Schaeffer spirit”…

L’Abri Fellowship -This is the ministry that Schaeffer and his wife founded. It has greatly expanded and continues to do a wonderful job of ministering today. Check out their page on the history of L’Abri.

Francis A. Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary. Jerram Barrs is closely connected to this. Two of his courses, on the early and later years of Schaeffer, are available (for free!!!) at the Covenant website. And HERE

Francis Schaeffer -a new website and ministry launched to celebrate the 100th birthday of Schaeffer. Lots of great resources available.

Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation – The Francis A. Schaeffer Foundation was incorporated in 1988 by Edith SchaefferUdo and Deborah Middelmann and several of their friends as a foundation of ideas.

The Francis Schaeffer Study Center – This is an awesome ministry to students. From their webpage… “The focus of the Study Center curriculum is on equipping high school students with basic biblical knowledge, an understanding of the Christian world-view and an integrated study of the literature, history, and art of western civilization.”

Other helpful resources…

And… what would a post on Schaeffer be without something from the man himself…